Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Asian education systems

February 17, 2012

As the economic centre of the world shifts to the East, so is the centre of high performance in school education. Four of the world’s five highest-performing systems are Hong Kong, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore, according to OECD’s 2009 PISA assessments of students. InShanghai, the average 15-year old mathematics student is performing at a level two to three years above his or her counterpart in Australia, the USA and Europe

In recent years, many OECD countries have substantially increased education expenditure, often with disappointing results. Grattan Institute’s new report from its School Education program, Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia, shows how studying the strengths of these systems can improve our children’s lives.

Success in these systems is not determined by culture – by Confucianism, rote learning, Tiger Mothers etc. –  nor is it always the result of spending more money. Instead, these systems focus on what is known to matter in the classroom – a relentless, practical focus on learning, the creation of a strong culture of teacher education, collaboration, mentoring, feedback and sustained professional development. 

Many western countries have begun to introduce versions of the reforms that these East Asian systems have implemented, or are talking about doing so. Most have much further to go. This report  provides an extensive assessment of how other countries can implement the lessons of these high-performing systems.

Thanks to the Grattan Institute for this work. Visit the Grattan website to download a copy of the report

Sha Tin – practical example of smart specialisation

December 7, 2011

Last month I attended the ‘Smart Specialisation’ conference in Seville, organised by the OECD, European Community and the Andalusian Government. The conference was invaluable in exchanging views on how to progress the concept, which is to assist local stakeholders to build sustainable competitive positions in global value chains. Smart Specialisation is extremely timely given that all nations are looking for ways of creating wealth and jobs.

Anyway, en route to the conference, I stumbled on a stunning example of smart specialisation.

A day at the races has been a popular past time for Hong Kong residents since the 1930s. But it now home to arguably the world’s best horseracing cluster in terms of the quality of the horses, jockeys, trainers, administrators, training facilities and racecourse amenities.  

There are two tracks. Sha Tin, about 6 trains stops inland from Kowloon, is the bigger and newer track. Happy Valley is the older and smaller track, located on the island.

Sha Tin, opened in 1978, is a sensational piece of infrastructure. Quite frankly, it surpasses Flemington, Randwick, Longchamps, Royal Ascot and all the rest. It comprises a large, beautifully manicured track against a backdrop of mountains and twenty story apartment blocks; two huge grandstands with six levels; the world’s longest on-track TV screen; a large mounting yard with a retractable roof; and outstanding totalisator technology.

And the patrons are knowledgeable, well-dressed and well-behaved. I wandered around one of the betting halls with a beer in my hand and suddenly realised that this wasn’t the done thing.

The racecourse apparently attracts 50,000 or more patrons to each meeting, and prizemoney is very healthy. The day I was there, it was a ten race card, with three at Group 2 level and worth around $US500,000 each. The Hong Kong Jockey Club hosts some of the world’s key racing events e.g. the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, Champions Mile, the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, and the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby.

 What have been the success factors? Obviously the Chinese love of gambling. But the underlying strength has been the management of the operation. To explain, horseracing critically depends on the integrity and quality of the event. This has been made possible by a steady flow of international expertise since the British largely kicked things off 70 years ago. The current Club CEO is from Germany and the Executive Director of Racing is from the USA. The bulk of the stewards and racecourse managers are Australian. The horses are mainly imported from New Zealand and Australia, the totalisator managers are mostly Australians, Brits and locals, and the jockeys are a great mix of French, US, South African, Kiwis, Australians and Asians. In economic jargon, technology transfer and diffusion has been a dominant factor.

 The end result is a thriving industry with a significant value chain – 26,000 full-time and part-time jobs, tax payments to the Hong Kong Treasury in excess of $US1 billion annually, tourist revenues, imports of horses and jockeys etc. and a core part of Hong Kongsociety.

 The Hong Kong racing industry is far ahead of anything in the USA or Europe. It provides an exemplar for a region building a supply chain that sustains a global competitive industry.

 P.S. Children are not allowed entry. You can purchase a ticket into the Members Stand for $HK100 ($US12) – you need to show your passport.

Collaborator Profile – Brendan Dyson (your China man)

April 6, 2011

Who and where are you?

I work for the Australia/China Technical Experts Network, based in Canberra. Always been interested in Trade and Exports and the vital role networking and collaboration plays.  

What’s your job? 

On the Australian side, I work with over 3,000 Australian collaborators from Commonwealth & State agencies – business, professional/industry associations, research institutes & companies in the areas of education, tourism, engineering, minerals & energy, agriculture, manufacturing, advanced materials & biotechnology.

On the Chinese side, each year I work with around 1400 middle to senior level Beijing and Provincial Chinese officials and business managers to arrange:

  • Short term studies (2-5 days) at Universities to learn about economic, social, cultural or political developments of Chinese interest in Australia.
  • Longer term studies (4-12 weeks) mainly at Universities (but not always) to undertake detailed studies of specific interest to the group.
  • Technical on site meetings with companies, research institutes, professional and industry associations.
  • Discussions with companies & agencies covering everything from iron ore to E- Government. 
  • Seminars, trade displays, promotions, introductions and site visits for Australian companies interested in developing co-operative relationships in China.

 What’s exciting you at present?

Watching the growth of the China juggernaut and trying to anticipate some of the economic and geostrategic implications for Australia.  

 What are your top 3 tips on how to collaborate?  

1. Listen to everyone – What’s happening at one level has implications at other levels. Before my China epiphany (2003) I’d be at work telling Hong Kong contacts that no iron ore was available. Then I’d go home, have dinner and ask my wife what shares we should buy for our superannuation fund. Wake up Brendan!! Get your head out of the trenches and think about the other persons’ world. Everything is interconnected, get in the helicopter and look for the common threads.

2. Never Burn Bridges. Keep collaborations alive until the timing is right. A large Chinese iron ore investment fell over in 2004 because the Chinese were unsure about how good a deal they were getting.  No one then understood the strength of the China boom. A couple of iron ore price rises and six months later the Chinese group would have jumped at the deal.  But by then it was too late. They had burned their bridges with the Australian supplier and would never get the same offer again.

3. Small population/large countries like Australia have to collaborate to survive. We must get better at it.
Australia’s 22 million people can’t do it all on their own in a world of almost 7 billion. In finance, in trade, in government, we’ve borrowed and benefited from others. Australian researchers know that our spending on R&D, even if doubled, could never produce some of the breakthroughs and some of the productivity enhancing technologies coming from overseas. The more we work with others the better off for everyone.

 What collaborative projects would interest Cockatoo readers?

The priorities in the past have been agriculture, education, minerals and energy, although collaborations in other areas have also been successful. I deal with literally every area and every level of Chinese business and government so there are always opportunities for collaboration. Some will move quickly, some will move slowly. Collaborations in the area of education are generally successful and easy to stay abreast of.  Non education collaborations are harder to follow. My main role is to arrange the initial introduction, organise the initial site visit etc.  Often I don’t know for years afterwards if the collaborations succeeded or not.  But if Cockatoo readers are willing to take a punt, I’ve always got a Chinese audience for you.

Hardware & Software – China & India

April 15, 2009

A new book, “The Emergence of the Hardware and Software Industries in China and India”, presents the first rigorous comparison of the growth of the IT industries in China and India.


Based on interviews with 300+ companies. Explains the different growth paths of the software and hardware sectors, and why India is the software capital of the world while China is a manufacturing powerhouse.


Compelling case study of how differences in economic policies and the investment climate affect industrial growth. Cost $US25.


Go to

Irish-China linkages (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008


The Irish Times reports that Galway-based design and manufacturing company CF Tooling opened a new production facility in the southern Chinese production hub of Dongguan. The €7 million factory will build server racks for the China market for IBM.


CF Tooling’s managing director John Flaherty said “In December last year we picked a greenfield site here and now it’s ready to run…I came here five times in all. This was a building site three weeks ago. We’re planning to make 500 to 600 server racks a week here. We have capacity for 900 and we’re also going to offer the facility to our other customers.”


CF Tooling already has operations in Athenry, Co Galway; the UK, the Czech Republic and the Philippines, and employs 1,000 people. Turnover in 2007 was €63 million and is forecast to rise to €77 million. Its customers include IBM, American Power Conversion, Ingersoll Rand, Linde Carrier, Toshiba, Hitachi and Glen Dimplex. CF makes the same racks in Ireland and the Czech Republic, with the Irish operation supplying Dublin and the Czech plant supplying Hungary. Flaherty said: “IBM asked us to come to China. We made a commitment in December last year to be ready in China – in fact we made a bet, IBM said they’d buy us a dinner if we managed to do it…big companies want global solutions. We couldn’t be a global supplier to IBM if we just had Galway. We wouldn’t be doing any business.”


The factory is in the town of Qingxi, part of the huge manufacturing city of Dongguan. Exports from Qingxi were worth €3.7 billion last year and the town is home to 800 companies. “It was no problem to set up here. People think you can get lost in China, and you can, but if you follow rules and regulations you’ve no problem,” Mr Flaherty added. “It’s like anywhere else, similar to the Philippines in fact for us.”We will be successful here like we are anywhere else – we bring the knowledge of the Irish manufacturing process to the world, and the efficiencies that we’ve built in over the years.”


Contributed by Professor Roy Green.

China is the new Germany

November 12, 2008


Mark Peterson Arkansas USA ( has sent us this quaint little story.

At the end of the Second World War, Germany was an “emerging market”. It was industrializing rapidly and producing brisk economic growth. Today, Germany is a mature “developed market” that grows slowly if it grows at all. Today, China is the new Germany. The industrial dynamism that produced Germany’s post-war success is moving to the East… piece by piece.

One of the largest steel mills in Germany was the ThyssenKrupp mill in the Ruhr Valley, the heart of Germany’s industrial area. At the turn of the millennium (2000), mills and factories in Germany began to close, unable to compete with lower wages in the developing world. A Chinese company bought the ThyssenKrupp mill, and soon 1,000 Chinese workers arrived to take it apart – they worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and dismantled the plant in less than a year, two years faster than the Germans anticipated.  The Germans complained, so the Chinese took a day off. Over 5,000 miles away, the Chinese then put together the 275,000 tons of equipment and material, and the plant now produces as much steel as the entire production of China in 1975.

When the Chinese departed, they left the makeshift dormitories and kitchens they occupied for a year neat and clean. There was, however, a single pair of black boots left in one of the dormitories. It carried the brand name of Phoenix, which was also the name of the plant the Chinese just took apart. The boots also carried the label “Made in China”.

Source:  Chris Mayer, Whiskey and Gunpowder, 6/3/08

Innovation Policy – Germany benchmarked

October 17, 2008


A 420 page study ‘New Challenges for Germany in the Innovation Competition’ has come to our attention courtesy of the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship.


The report benchmarks Germany’s innovation performance against China, France, India, Korea, USA and Japan. The report reads like an OECD country survey – but suffers from extreme verbosity and lacks a tight summary section. Nevertheless it is a treasure trove of material e.g. interesting section on Korea’s cluster program.


Some of the salient points:

§          Germany faces challenges in coordinating policies across different parts of its Federal system.

§          In terms of strategies, German innovation policies place great emphasis on support for SMEs.

§          German policymakers must promote technology transfer and commercialization in a fragmented environment characterized by numerous research organizations and SMEs.

§          Overall, Germany shows great strengths in areas related to international trade and key technology sectors. Information technology is an exception, with Germany’s international technology profile lagging other economies.

§          Germany is now aiming to spend 3% of GDP on R&D.


Go to New Challenges for Germany in the Innovation Competition

The Agglomeration of Ethnic Inventors

September 22, 2008


Researchers at Harvard Business School have been studying the changing nature of innovation by tracking the ethnicity of US-based inventors.


The study identifies a large increase in the number of Chinese and Indian inventors during the 1990s. The largest portions of patenting by ethnic inventors occurred in three locations – San Francisco, LA and New York. And 80 percent of all ethnic patenting was in the largest metro areas.


These concentration effects are most pronounced in the private sector, as opposed to government agencies or universities, which are in fixed locations.


Go to “The Agglomeration of US Ethnic Inventors” by William R. Kerr (Source: NDOE)

‘Design’ now all-important

July 24, 2008

Dr John Howard (Canberra-based consultant/policy analyst) says design and creative practice are major components of industry and innovation policy. John has done excellent work in this field, and this month he launched Between a hard rock and a soft space: design, creative practice and innovation.” The international overview is worth sharing:

§          UK leads the world in its recognition of the creative industries. The Cox Review of Creativity in Business examined how to exploit creative skills more effectively (UK Treasury 2005). The Design Council is important – now runs a program ‘Designs of the Time’ (DOTT) and a new program, ‘Designing Demand’ helps SMEs become more competitive – offers flexible, structured processes, using expert Design Associates with business experience.

§ New Zealand has launched a design strategy and is looking to breed a cohort of design-led firms — brand builders based on ideas grown in New Zealand.

§ The German Design Council (Rat für Formgebung) is a world leader in competence centres for communication and know-how transfer in the design field. Runs competitions, exhibitions, conferences, consulting, research and publications.

§ The Swedish Industrial Design Foundation (SVID) improves awareness of the importance of design as a competitive tool, and encourages the integration of design methodology.

§ The Indian Government released a national design policy in 2006. It includes a ‘Mark of Good Design’ – only well-designed products can carry the mark. The aim is to ensure that the words ‘Designed in India’ come to mean good value. India is seeking to become a global design hub. Currently a roll-out of design-led business and academic centres.

§ Taiwan has a robust design policy, supported by a growing number of design schools.

§ South Korean students outnumber all other nationalities in most graduate design programs in the United States, and Samsung is an upcoming innovator.

§ China is shifting its manufacturing base from OEM to original design manufacture and brand-manufacturing operations. In 20 years, China has opened 400 specialist design schools to train designers and build design capabilities.

§ Singapore is creating centres to bring business and design and creativity together.

Thanks to Hari Argiro (Adelaide CC) for pointing us to John Howard’s article.

Pharmaceuticals – how competitive is China and India?

June 24, 2008


New research sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation depicts the rise of China and India as emerging powers in pharmaceuticals R&D.


The study notes that leading big pharma firms, like Merck and Eli Lilly, now rely heavily on Indian and Chinese partners for high value R&D. But the study concludes that it’s too early to say if India and China will become major sources of new drugs. Local firms lack capital and distribution channels and are thus heavily reliant on partnerships with existing global market leaders. However both countries are making impressive strides.  


Go to The Globalization of Innovation: Pharmaceuticals, Can China and India Cure the Global Pharmaceuticals Market?, by Vivek Wadha.